Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Unique Coffin Ship

Coffin Ship?

Is it as simple and real as it sounds? Yes, it is! The term coffin ship comes from the Great Irish Famine. Coffin ships were ships that took emigrants from Ireland to North America. This morbid term was given to these ships because of the amount of men, women and children that died while being aboard this.

Reason for Deaths on Coffin Ships:
  • Illness (typhus)
  • Poor living conditions 
  • Over crowding
  • Lack of food and water 
Reasons for Coffin Ships

Blight Infested Potato
The Great Irish Famine struck this small isle of Europe from 1845-1852. This famine was due to a infestation within the potato crop know as blight. Many people may wonder, why is the loss of a one crop such an issue? Well, this is because the agricultural land within Ireland isn't the best to harvest all crops. Potatoes were the easiest crop to produce in abundance on their land. Also, due to the political issues of that time produce such as meat and diary were being exported to England. 

When the blight entered an area of Ireland, it would come in a black cloud and was said to have the smell of death. The blight made the potato crop small, black, mushy and inedible. This caused the people of Ireland to starve. A mass exist exodus occurred as people were trying to escape Ireland to find food and work in North America. 

During the 7 years of the famine the population fell 20-25%. Approximately 1.3 million people emigrated and approximately 1 million died. 

The Unique Coffin Ship

On a happy note, one ship in particular did stand out compared to the other coffin ships! This ship was known as the Jeanie Johnston. The Jeanie Johnston was built in 1847 with the sole purpose of transporting cargo until the owner of the ship, John Donovan and Sons of Tralee, Co.Kerry saw the desperate need for helping with the transportation of Irish people. So on April 24th 1848 the Jeanie Johnston made its first voyage across the Atlantic to Quebec, carrying 193 passengers. During the Jeanie Johnston's 7 year career she carried over 2,500 emigrants to North America and never once lost a single passenger. All passengers and crew men survived every voyage (approximately 7 weeks).
Jeanie Johnston Replica
What set the Jeanie Johnston apart from the rest?
  • Highly experienced Captain James Attridge
  • Highly experienced Dr. Richard Blennerhassett
  • Strict look over of passengers before boarding ship (must be healthy)
  • Regular shaking of bedding over the ships side (eliminate typhus carrying bugs)
  • Frequently emptying of "toilets" 
  • Controlled number of passengers

Jeanie Johnston's Demise 

Jeanie Johnston Replica
After the Jeanie Johnston would land in North America, she would return to Ireland carrying timber. In 1858 after the Famine, the ship was on it's way to Quebec carrying to much timber. The ship became waterlogged and started sinking for about 9 days. It's said that the crew climbed the mast and the sail to stay out of the water. The crew and the top of the mast were spotted by a Dutch ship and the crew was rescued! YAY! Even on her last day the Jeanie Johnston still never last a soul, maintaining her perfect record.

*The Jeanie Johnston replica made a voyage to Quebec in 2003 and still serves as a training ship for sailors.  


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